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Result: Aleksandar Kolarov stunner gives Serbia opening win over Costa Rica in Group E

Result: Kolarov stunner gives Serbia opening win
© Reuters
Aleksandar Kolarov scores a memorable free kick to hand Serbia a hard-fought 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the opening game of Group E at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Aleksandar Kolarov's stunning free kick proved the difference as Serbia started their 2018 World Cup campaign with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in Group E this afternoon.

The Central American side, now led by coach Oscar Ramirez, reached the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago, but were undone by some memorable quality from Kolarov, whose set piece capped off a functional showing from the Orlovi in the city of Samaras.

Costa Rica showed early signs of promise on the break, as Bryan Ruiz chipped a ball beyond Kolarov for the run of Marco Urena, who saw his shot smothered by Serbian stopper Vladimir Stojkovic.

Los Ticos should have gone ahead after 12 minutes when Serbia fell asleep at a corner. The short set piece allowed David Guzman to cross into the middle, where centre-back Giancarlo Gonzalez was left unmarked to somehow head over the bar.

The chances soon kicked Serbia into life and they began to take possessional control of the contest. Branislav Ivanovic showed promising skill on the right to beat his marker, before Keylor Navas did well to get a hand to the resulting cross driven across his goal.

It was down the right channel where Serbia caused issues in a pragmatic first half, this time as Dusan Tadic dragged men wide to release Adem Ljajic, although no Serbian player gambled on his cross into the middle.

Gonzalez's early header proved the best chance of the first period and Serbia's closest effort to match the miss came courtesy of Lazio playmaker Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who produced a memorable bicycle kick that was palmed away by Navas.

Costa Rica showed more forward endeavour after the break, but it was Serbia who should have taken a lead when Milinkovic-Savic played Aleksandar Mitrovic beyond the defence, although he was thwarted by a brilliant save from Navas.

Serbia's quality in the final third eventually told, but it came in avoidable circumstances when Guzman carelessly brought Mitrovic down on the edge of the area. The set piece allowed Kolarov to step up in the 56th minute and bend a memorable free kick over the wall and beyond Navas into the top corner.

Arsenal forward Joel Campbell was introduced with Costa Rica chasing the game and he almost capitalised on an error from Nikola Milenkovic, but the centre-back recovered remarkably to deny the striker as he found himself one-on-one with Stojkovic.

Serbia should have made the final 10 minutes a little less nerve-wracking when Tadic crossed for substitute Filip Kostic on the penalty spot, although Navas got a vital touch on the ball to prevent the forward from finishing on the half-volley.

Milinkovic-Savic turned in a standout second-half showing with some memorable forward passes and he played in Mitrovic to put the game to bed, but the forward fluffed his lines under pressure from Gonzalez.

In the end the misses were not too matter too much, though, as Mladen Krstajic's charges held off some late Costa Rican pressure in order to seal three important points.

Potentially tougher clashes against both Brazil and Switzerland now await Serbia later in the group.

COSTA RICA (5-4-1): Navas; Acosta, Gonzalez, Duarte, Calvo, Gamboa; Borges, Venegas (Bolanos 60'), Guzman (Colindres 73'), Ruiz; Urena (Campbell 66')

SERBIA (4-2-3-1): Stojkovic; Ivanovic, Milenkovic, Tosic, Kolarov; Matic, Milivojevic; Tadic (Rukavina 83'), Ljajic (Kostic 70'), Milinkovic-Savic; Mitrovic (Prijovic 90')

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The Costa Rica team line up before their friendly game with Belgium on June 11, 2018
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool23193154134160
2Manchester CityMan City23182362174556
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs23170648232551
4Chelsea23145440192147
5Arsenal23135548321644
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd23135546331344
7Watford239683232033
8Wolverhampton WanderersWolves239592731-432
9Leicester CityLeicester2394102929031
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham2394103034-431
11Everton238693433130
12Bournemouth2393113342-930
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2375112532-726
14Crystal Palace2364132332-922
15Southampton2357112540-1522
16Burnley2364132343-2022
17Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2356121931-1221
18Cardiff CityCardiff2354141944-2519
19Fulham2335152151-3014
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2325161340-2711

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